Incident 170: Target Suggested Maternity-Related Advertisements to a Teenage Girl's Home, Allegedly Correctly Predicting Her Pregnancy via Algorithm

Description: Target recommended maternity-related items to a family in Atlanta via ads, allegedly predicting their teenage daughter’s pregnancy before her father did, although critics have called into question the predictability of the algorithm and the authenticity of its claims.


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Alleged: Target developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Target customers.

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Sean McGregor, Khoa Lam
How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did · 2012

Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to m…

How Companies Learn Your Secrets · 2012

Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn…

Target didn’t figure out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did · 2020

Target didn’t figure out a teenager was pregnant before her father did, and that one article that said they did was silly and bad.

In 2012, a story was published in the New York Times under the headline How Companies Learn Your Secrets. The…


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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